Too much of the animal disfigures the civilized human being, too much culture makes a sick animal.
After the intensity of the recent Full Moon and the many international dramas of the past week, the Tarot Major Arcana offers the hand of fierce love. Let us welcome this week the Strength card.
Here we see a beautiful woman adorned with flowers, holding the mouth of a lion. Her gentle demeanor recalls the nurturing, but more passive, Empress, or perhaps the Goddess Artemis of the Beasts.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith illustration, she is crowned with the cosmic lemniscate, the figure eight symbol of infinity and dominion. In this way, she is like The Magician.
Arthur Waite also refers to her belt of flowers as a lemniscate, connecting her to the lion in another infinite loop. Wearing a special cord or belt is a very powerful and ancient practice in many magical traditions.
The lion is a universally understood symbol of strength, majesty, and courage, appearing in the mythology of nearly every culture. In astrology, lions are associated with the zodiac sign of Leo and are symbols of the Sun.
Yet as frightening as lions may be, this woman has a peaceful touch that tames without breaking. Even as she tenderly closes the lion’s mouth, the beast licks her hand.
Body and Soul
The lion is the wild, carnal, ferocious animal within us – hindquarters up, claws digging in, and looking straight into the woman’s eyes.
As long as we live, we are filled with huge impulses for gratification: sex, power, pleasure, and aggression. When out of balance, we can be selfish, gluttonous, greedy, violent, and destructive.
Or in the other extreme, we are in danger of zombification – such a popular terror in recent years.
For instance, our civilization seems to worship the intellect that is disconnected from the body. Cold, analytical logic is supreme; irrationality is shunned, feared, and vilified.
But repressing or fighting the wild in ourselves is rarely successful and usually results in, as Jung describe it, “a sick animal.” For this is the very life force that courses through us, and helps us flourish, even when faced with challenges or adversity.
Naming our body’s drives “sin” and “evil” or projecting them onto others is deeply counterproductive, as the tattered Western history of shame, blame, bloodshed, and oppression surely attests.
When we try to bury our sense of being fiercely alive, we become warped and strange. With our animal instincts and desires sabotaged, our worlds become bleak and lifeless. Fear and desire intermingle, poisoning our perceptions.
We become addicts and voyeurs — longing for physical expression, but only from a numbed-out distance, or through artificial, bigger-than-life proxies, like sports and film stars.
However, at the other end of the spectrum, we also know all too well of those who do not or cannot manage the intensity of their urges. Too much power given to mindless volatility can lead to terrible consequences like rape (which is not sexual passion, but rage and violent hatred), murder, and even the destruction of lives, families, and whole ecosystems for a sense of supremacy and other shadow needs.
But this is also a distortion of who and what we actually are.
We have built an entire civilization on the belief that unchecked (or without help from divine intervention), humans are innately evil, or, at the very least, dangerously selfish.
The truth is, we are born with naturally kind hearts. Turns out that greed and self-interest are not the prime directives of survival.
In fact, to shut down our compassion is as unnatural as attempting to completely kill our untameable animal instincts. Both paths lead to great sorrow. They perpetuate a fight against our own hearts, and are rooted in fear. And as we know, fear only begets more fear and conflict.
As always, the Tarot shows us the better way is one of flow and balance. Here in the sunny Strength card, the woman and lion are at peace with one another. The primal, dangerous potentials are calmed, not by a whip, but by mutual respect.
Here we see how love actually can conquer fear. The woman’s patience and compassion quiet the beast. Self-mastery is achieved, not through denying who we are, but having the forebearance to accept, forgive, and bless ourselves, in all of our parts.
Success comes, not from fearlessness or naivety, but from the stouthearted acknowledgement of what is — even if it is awful — and yet nevertheless, resolving to stand for goodness.
The Force Will Be With Us
Astrologer Lance Ferguson’s Skywatch bulletin notes:
In July, the time comes to make important endings and new beginnings…
Pluto [was] sitting next to the Full Moon on the 8th. Mars accompanies the New Moon on July 23rd. Both cowboys are powerful in this context and are valuable, even if they bring challenging times.
We harvest on a Full Moon; this is the best time to finalize decisions and to complete projects during the two week-period from Full to New Moon. This part of the lunar cycle encourages us to let go of people and situations that no longer help us grow and achieve.
Pluto rules death and rebirth and is the master of healing old wounds and giving us a new and better perspective after we give up unhealthy ways and attitudes.
We plant seeds on a New Moon [July 23].
And this one [will be] in the first degree of Leo and is sitting next to courageous Mars. What a time to set sail!
Leo rules your heart—this is an excellent New Moon to start something dear to your heart. Mars gives you energy and the guts to step out on your ideas and creative thinking on the day of this lunation and in the two weeks that follow until the next Full Moon.
Follow your bliss and plant a seed under the umbrella of this event—the Force is with you.
So this week, it’s time to fiercely face what no longer helps us thrive in our most wild and splendid lives. It’s time to let go of unhealthy, self-defeating situations and prepare the way for an auspicious new start.
The Lion Whisperer
From horses, to bees, to headstrong young children and even Shakespeare’s infamous shrew, the ability to tame without breaking the spirit is a gift that many wish for, but few have mastered. It takes enormous patience and most of all, love.
Yet this Major Arcana’s visit indicates such power is in now in our hands.
This is a golden moment for stepping up as a people, and disarming our conflicts with the hand of gentle understanding. How might we disengage from our unending “war on terror,” which, if you think about it, is a horrific oxymoron? Pushing back with more and more war has only served the purpose of spreading chaos and the power of those who wish us destroyed. Might not we do better by using our enormous resources to wage radical peace?
Instead of perpetuating yet more violent competition, let us redeem the narrative of our species from the obsolete survival of the fittest mindset. Strength suggests that it is time to shift to a vision rooted in peaceful cooperation and respect.
This week, we are invited to express the great joy of being both human and animal. How would your life be different if you were wildly, fully unleashed–yet always under the guidance of your higher angels?
This is a chance to reconnect on a deep level to what you love most about your life; the people that empower you; the passion that gives you the will to face your hesitation and even fears, and conquer them.
What anxieties must we name and tame? How can loving tolerance quiet the “beast,” yet still arouse our noblest power? In what ways does this magnificent ferocity serve our highest aspirations? For, as is true of our own multifaceted selves, these two figures in the Strength card are not at odds. They are allies.
This week, we may be required to rise to the occasion. There could be risk. We may even face hardship or fight to defend what we love.
Although there may be difficulties ahead, the gift of Strength is great fortitude. Passion and wisdom thrive beside one another.
Let us then tap into the Source that gives us infinite courage, starting with knowing that our greatest strength lies in embracing our lives fully and following fearlessly where our lion hearts call us to be.